MIGHT AS WELL ENJOY THE RIDE: SOME THOUGHTS ON TURNING 70

Tomorrow is my 70 thbirthday. This is a serious number, daunting even, yet it is possible that I have never felt less serious or daunted than I do today. Instead, I feel almost giddy to find myself here, intact and thriving. I am so very grateful.

Here is some of what I have been reflecting on as this milestone approaches.

How I thought about age over the years:

When I was 16, 24 was ancient, and, frankly, too distant to contemplate.
When I was 24, I was entirely grown up, and wise enough to see that I had been but a child at 16.

When I was 28, I saw that I had been very young and quite unformed at 24. (Are you seeing a pattern here?). 40 was the far side of forever, and frankly, too stodgily middle-aged to be on my radar.

When I had my first child at 35, and then my second at 38, and right up until the day each of them left home, I was too engaged with the eternal present to think much about getting older. 40 and 50 were in there somewhere. I sort of remember celebrating each.

When I was 56, my second daughter left for college and I looked up to find 20 years had passed since my first daughter came into the world. I was surprised to find 60 looming ahead like an iceberg.

By the time I turned 60, the iceberg had mostly melted in the face of my very full life. That life was good, if a bit overwhelming, what with work, graduate school, and an ailing mother. I was aware of the speed with which time was passing by. I was not pleased to think that 70 would be the next milestone; 70 looked like the beginning of the end.

Things I could not have imagined on the road to 70 :

At 70, I do not feel old.

At 70, I feel good, often great.

My life continues to be rich and full.

I look ahead with pleasure, curiosity, and eager anticipation.

There is a decent chance that I will still feel good at 80. There is, however, no arguing with the fact that my wave is cresting. I am sitting atop the crest. The wave will fall, sooner or later, quickly or slowly. In the meantime, to quote James Taylor, “Might as well enjoy the ride.”

The question I have been asking myself:

What do I want to do with the time, however short or long, that I have left?

I want to stop putting the things I should do (says who?) ahead of the things I want to do, the things I came here to do. This is exciting. And difficult — I have, after all, 70 years behind me of doing what I’m supposed to do.

Here’s the tricky part; I don’t want this to be another to-do list. I want it to be a reminder not to waste my time. (This is not to be confused with whiling away my time. Scrolling through my phone is mostly wasting; walking in the woods without a thought in my head is whiling). I want to wake up each morning and ask myself, What do I want to do today? Maybe some of you do this every day. I haven’t been so good at it, even in retirement. But I’m getting the hang of it. There’s nothing like a milestone birthday to focus the attention.

As I have been approaching this birthday, James Taylor’s The Secret ‘O Life has been playing in my mind. I love the image of sliding and gliding down to our finish. You can have a listen by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHWHPPHpAj8 (I think it loses something when it isn’t sung, but I’ve included the lyrics in case you prefer the message in capsule form.*)

May the song speak to you as it has to me. And ’til next time, try not to try too hard. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Me at 16 — On the road to adulthood

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
’Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while

Might as well show some style

Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride

Now the thing about time is that time
Isn’t really real
It’s just your point of view
How does it feel for you
Einstein said he could never understand it all
Planets spinning through space
The smile upon your face
Welcome to the human race

Some kind of lovely ride
I’ll be sliding down
I’ll be gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
See me sliding down
Gliding down
Try not to try too hard
It’s just a lovely ride
The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time

Originally published at https://woacanotes.blogspot.com.